By Deacon Allan Yeghia Jendian
YETTEM, CA – On Sunday, July 8, a celebratory Badarak was conducted at the Diocesan parish named for St. Mary, in Yettem, commemorating the 108th Anniversary of Consecration of its original Sanctuary.
The Badarak was celebrated by Fr. Zaven Markosyan, parish priest of St. Mary, with assistance at the altar by Deacon Allan Jendian, Deacon Randy Tellalian, Sub-Deacon Alan Farsakian, and Stolebearer David Sarfazian. The Choir was led by Mary Louise Menendian, accompanied by Yn. Adrine Markosyan at the organ.
Fr. Zaven, now in his seventh year of pastorate, expressed his happiness during his homily and offered his congratulations to the parishioners on this special occasion.
American Diocese Established
In 1898, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America was officially established, with headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts. The immigrant community’s first Armenian Church in America to be consecrated was on January 18, 1891 in the name of Soorp Prgitch (Armenian for “Holy Savior”) by the Very Rev. Hovsep Sarajian. Fr. Sarajian, the first Armenian clergyman to set foot on American soil in July of 1889 and first Primate of the American Diocese, celebrated the Badarak of the Armenian Church in rented facilities and traveled to various cities to perform sacraments where we had established communities.
1st Five Churches in America
Yettem’s original church was consecrated on July 4, 1911 by Bishop Moushegh Seropian and became the 5th Armenian Community in America to have its church consecrated. The four other communities to have consecrated their churches prior to Yettem by Sarajian were:
1st – Our Savior, Worcester, MA, as noted above;
2nd – Holy Trinity, Fresno, CA, its original, on October 14, 1900;
3rd – Holy Cross, West Hoboken (Union City), NJ, on January 27, 1907;
4th – St. Gregory the Illuminator, Fowler, CA, on April 17,1910.
Historical Highlights of Yettem
The St. Mary Armenian Church of Yettem has a rich history dating back to the arrival of a group Armenians in 1901 from the old country and settling in the rural area of present day Yettem. On Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 1903 the first worship service was held with subsequent services held in the Yettem School. The governmental agencies gave the Armenians permission to select a name for their settlement. A committee submitted three names… YETTEM was officially in 1903. On New Sunday (the Sunday after Easter), April 11, 1909, the first Badarak was celebrated by Bishop Sarajian. He named the first Parish Council, Choir and Building Committee, with Krikor Arslanian as chairman.
Bishop Seropian encouraged the faithful to build their own church and anointed the corner stones of the church in May of 1909. Following the consecration of the church in 1911, the Armenian and Sunday School and the Ladies Society were organized in 1912 and 1914, respectively. In 1927 the California Diocese (Western) was established with five original parishes, the Yettem parish of St. Mary; Holy Trinity, Fresno; St. Gregory, Fowler; Sts. Sahag Mesrob, Reedley; and Holy Cross, Los Angeles.
On June 12, 1942, the original wooden church in Yettem was destroyed by fire. The parish membership cast votes in favor of building on the same site and to preserve its name of St. Mary – Soorp Astvadzdzin. Architect Lawrence K. Cone (Condrajian) – with the guidance of Archpriest Fr. Garabed Kalfayan, Hoviv Yettemee – created a true gem of traditional Armenian architectural style. The main builders were Garabed Simonian, Sarkis Simonian, and Simon Simonian. The new St. Mary Church was consecrated on November 16, 1947 by Locum Tenens Bishop Vartan Kasparian and Archbishop Mampre Calfayan. The first ordination to the priesthood at St. Mary Church was Deacon John Kasparian on September 8-9, 1973 by Primate Bishop Vatche Hovsepian and renamed Der Vartan. During Fr. Vartan’s pastoral tenure, he directed the enhancement of the interior of the Sanctuary with stained glass, icons, and a vestry. The grounds have been beautified with a Martyrs Memorial Monument, an Armenian Khachkar, and an Armenian Monumental Cross.
Years of pastoral tenure: Fr. Zaven Markosyan 2012-present; Archpriest Fr. Vartan Kasparian 2003-12 & 1973-90; Fr. Sahak Kaishian 1998-02; Fr. Stepanos Dingilian 1994-96; Fr. Artoon Sempadian 1990-93; Fr. Khachadour Vrt. Sarajian 1972-73; Fr. Kourken Koudoulian 1962-69; Archpriest Garabed Kalfayan 1939-62; Fr. Vartan Davidian 1931-34; and Archpriest Vahan Guldalian 1922-24.
Fr. Zaven, a graduate of the Kevorkian Seminary of the Holy See, was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Karekin Nercesian (now Catholicos of All Armenians) on August 30, 1998 in Holy Etchmiadzin. He has been serving in the Western Diocese since 2006, and the Yettem Parish since 2012. Fr. Zaven and Yn. Adrine are blessed with two lovely daughters, Maneh and Sara.